What is a senior living community?
A senior living community is a place where older adults live. There are many different types of senior living communities. Each provides different services. The services are based on the lifestyle and health care needs of the residents. The following are some options for senior living.
Active adult communities
Active adult communities are neighborhoods that may include single-family homes, apartments, condominiums, townhouses, or mobile homes. Only adults 55 years of age or older can buy a home in an active adult community. Residents are fully independent. They can take care of themselves and manage their homes. Many of these communities offer a range of social, recreational, and educational activities.
An active adult community might be a good fit for an active, independent older adult who prefers to own his or her home. Residents in these communities have no trouble living on their own. They want to be around other older adults and enjoy participating in recreational or social activities.
Independent living communities
Independent living communities are also called retirement homes, retirement communities, or senior apartments. An older adult can rent or buy his or her own unit in one of these residences. Meals usually are provided for residents in a dining hall. Housekeeping, laundry, and transportation services may also be available. Residents usually do not need help with daily tasks, such as bathing, taking medicine, and getting dressed.
An independent living community might be a good fit for an older adult who feels lonely living alone. Residents enjoy community living with other older adults. Although they are fairly active and independent, they also want to have services such as housekeeping and meal preparation.
Assisted living residences
Assisted living residences are similar to independent living communities. However, they also offer personal care services for residents who need help with daily tasks. Many of these residences also include special units for people who have early- to middle-stage dementia.
An assisted living residence might be a good fit for an older adult who is somewhat active but needs help with daily tasks, such as bathing, taking medicine, and getting dressed.
Nursing homes are also called skilled nursing facilities or extended care facilities. They are residences for adults who do not need to be in the hospital but still require medical care. Adults who live in nursing homes have access to care from nurses or other professional staff 24 hours a day. This includes medical care, meals, and personal care services. Some nursing home residents can move into a different type of senior living community if their medical condition improves.
A nursing home might be a good fit for an older adult who needs 24-hour care from nurses or other medical professionals (for example, a patient who has late-stage dementia). This type of care usually can't be provided at home or in any of the other senior living facilities. Some nursing home services are covered by Medicare and/or Medicaid.
Continuing care retirement communities
Continuing care retirement communities feature different residences on a large campus. Depending on their needs, residents can choose independent living, assisted living, or nursing home services. As their needs change over time, older adults in these communities can move into a residence that offers more assistance or medical care. They do not have to move to a new community.
A continuing care retirement community might be a good fit for an older adult who wants to plan for the future before he or she needs any assistance or medical care. This is the most expensive of all senior living options. Residents must be able to afford to sign a contract and pay for services now, to be used at a later date. These communities allow an older adult to live in one place for the rest of his or her life.
Why do people choose to live in senior living communities?
People choose to move into senior living communities for many different reasons. For example, some move because they are lonely and want to be around other older adults. In some cases, an older adult can't take care of his or her home, or he or she needs help with daily tasks. Some people move because their family members can't provide a safe environment or proper medical care.
No matter what the reason, choosing to move to a senior living community can be a hard decision to make. It's normal for this transition to bring up many emotions for both the older adult and his or her family members.
How do I choose a senior living community?
This is a decision you should make with your family members. However, if an older adult is not able to participate in the discussion (for example, if he or she has dementia), family members and caregivers may need to make the decision.
The following steps can help you choose a community that fits your needs and your finances:
- Make sure you have a realistic, accurate account of your finances. Be sure to consider the finances of any family members who will be contributing.
- Consider all of your physical, medical, and emotional needs. Decide which senior living community meets these needs.
- Find residences in your area by visiting the Eldercare Locator.
- Schedule a tour with local residences. While you're on a tour, use the Senior Housing Tour Checklist to help you evaluate the residence.
- Read the housing contracts carefully.
After completing this process, talk over all your options with family members to choose a residence that is right for you.
- Classifications for Seniors Housing Property Types (PDF) by American Seniors Housing Association ( April 20, 2012, https://www.seniorshousing.org/filephotos/Classifications_for_Seniors_Housing_Property_Types.pdf)
- Long Term Care Options by Assisted Living Federation of America ( April 20, 2012, http://www.alfa.org/alfa/Senior_Living_Options.asp)
- Continuing Care Retirement Communities: What They Are and How They Work by AARP ( April 20, 2012, http://www.aarp.org/relationships/caregiving-resource-center/info-09-2010/ho_continuing_care_retirement_communities.html)
Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians
This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.